Jtimothya, I think we're probably on the same page about the PH-7, even as it compared to the Ref Phono 2 (not SE). Here's an excerpt from TAB review you kindly cited:
"Comparing the PH7 with the Reference Phono 2 confirmed what an excellent value the PH7 is, while acknowledging that, at twice its price, the Reference Phono 2 had the sonic chops to warrant it as no poster child for the high-ends law of diminishing returns. I heard no order-of-magnitude difference for any single sonic attribute, yet in sum the Reference Phono 2 was clearly the more refined product on every level."
My read is that the reviewer clearly tipped his hat for the PH-7, while acknowledging the improvements in overall refinement of the Ref Phono 2. What's really nice about the Ref Phono is that it can match up with very low output MC cartridges and has flexibility that the PH-7/8 just doesn't have.
As I said above, and not to quibble here, wherever the PH-7 holds as compared to the Ref Phono 2, IMO, the PH-8 is not much better. Does the PH-8 really nip at the Ref Phono 2's sonic heels?? Not sure.
But the PH-7 is no schlepper, not by any measure. If I had it to do over again, I'm not sure I would have dropped the cash for the PH-8, but that's me. Btw, I've recently seen a Ref Phono 2 for sale at a very attractive price. If I kept my cash dry, I might have jumped from the PH-7 to the Ref Phono 2. Maybe another day -- not today.